5 common questions parents ask pharmacists

Our expert pharmacist, Tasneem Mukadam-Waja, shares answers to some of the most common queries she faces in her field.


When your child is sick you have many questions for your doctor. But, you might also have some for your pharmacist. We answer 5 common questions parents ask pharmacists:

I belong to a reputable medical scheme but my pharmacy charges levies on my family’s acute and chronic prescriptions. Can you explain why?
Since there are numerous medical aids on the market, all with different protocols and procedures, these pointers are a guideline only.

Medical aid levies may be charged for a variety of reasons:

  • Maximum Medical Aid Price (MMAP): This is a specific pricing structure that stipulates a certain rate that the medical aid will pay for a specific class of medicines. Any pricing structure above this rate will be charged as a levy. For example, the medical aid may only pay for the lowest-priced generic medication. If your pharmacy does not stock that particular generic, you may have to pay a levy on the generic that your pharmacy does stock.
  • Pricing structures of individual pharmacies: The medical aid may only pay a certain percentage of mark-up on medications. If your pharmacy has a higher mark-up, the extra amount must be paid as a levy.
  • Formulary or non-formulary items: Certain medical aid options may only cover medicines that are on their formulary (official list), while other options may cover “out of formulary” items or pay only a portion towards these items. The excess may be charged as a levy.
  • Other medical aid policies: Some medical aids may decide to charge a certain percentage of prescriptions as a levy.

What are the benefits of a good probiotic for my kids when their paediatrician prescribes antibiotics for them?

Many species of beneficial bacteria, known as gut flora, colonise the human gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria assist in decreasing the possibility of certain bacterial, viral and yeast infections, enhancing the digestion and absorption processes, and the production of vitamins and minerals. Antibiotic therapy alters the microbial balance of the gut, as it not only kills harmful bacteria but also the beneficial bacteria that are necessary for the optimal functioning of a person’s gastrointestinal tract. A probiotic is a substance that contains live cultures of beneficial microorganisms. These microbes provide health benefits to the host when taken in sufficient quantities. Supplementation with probiotics reinstates and maintains the beneficial bacteria and restores the gut microbial balance.

Why is it that certain medications should be taken after food whereas others on an empty stomach?

Food and medicines can interact profoundly. Some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach in order to aid absorption, and therefore maintain the effectiveness, of the medication. It also ensures that the medicine is not destroyed or deactivated by digestive processes, such as stomach acid, which would result in its ineffectiveness.

Some medications need to be taken after meals to prevent gastric upset and abdominal side effects. There are many other reasons as well, but these would depend on the medication itself. You can discuss these with your pharmacist or doctor, but always follow all the instructions that come with your medicines.

I don’t have a medical aid and sometimes use original medicines and other times I use the generics that my pharmacist offers me. Am I’m allowed to refuse a generic and insist on its original counterpart or do I have to use the generic?

There are certainly cases which do not allow for substitution with generic medication. These include if the patient explicitly refuses to take a generic equivalent. Other instances where generic substitution is not allowed include:

  • If the prescriber has written on the prescription ‘No substitution’ next to the prescribed item
  • If the Medicines Control Council has deemed the drug not substitutable
  • If the price of the generic is higher than that of the original product.

My toddler has ringworm on her neck and arm that keeps coming back. Please advise.

Ringworm (tinea) is a fungal infection that is often found on the scalp, body, face, neck, limbs, hands, feet, nails and groin. Ringworm is contagious and can spread from one area of the body to another, and from person to person.

Consult your pharmacist or doctor for a safe and effective topical antifungal treatment. Suitable oral treatment can be prescribed and carefully monitored by a doctor when indicated. It is vital to complete the full duration of treatment. It doesn’t mean the infection has cleared if the lesions have faded.

The ringworm might be recurring because your child is exposed to the fungus frequently, or she wasn’t properly treated for the condition. Your child may have an underlying condition that makes her susceptible to infections.

General hygiene should be maintained and rigorous hand-washing throughout the day is important. Wash your hands before and after application of the antifungal cream. It is important that the areas affected by tinea are kept as dry as possible. Keep your daughter’s hairbrush, bed sheets, clothing, towels, toys, etc. separate and wash them often with hot water. Also remember to keep your daughter’s fingernails short to prevent the spread of the fungus through scratching.

Ringworm can also affect pets and they may transmit the infection to humans. If you have pets at home, get them checked by a vet.

If after following all the above measures, the ringworm still persists, consult your paediatrician or dermatologist.

Also see: Is your medicine cabinet safe?





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